Showing posts tagged as "kelp forest"
Julie Packard: A 30th Anniversary Message
(Julie Packard is a founder and the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.)
Thirty years ago today, we began a grand adventure. The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened its doors for the first time—and began changing the way people think about the ocean.
What started in the late 1970s as the dream of a few marine scientists has grown to become the best aquarium in the world, and an ocean conservation leader of international stature.
For that, I want to thank you.
The tens of millions of people who have visited over the years, our Aquarium members and donors, the supporters of our Seafood Watch program, and the dedicated staff and volunteers who keep this place humming—all of you have played a critical role in shaping our development, and a future with healthy oceans.
An uncharted journey
We didn’t know what to expect on October 20, 1984. But the excitement, the enthusiasm we felt that day, has only multiplied since then.
Our commitment to admit school groups free of charge has blossomed into education programs that have reached more than 2 million students, thousands of teachers and hundreds of teens who are emerging as ocean conservation leaders. This year, we announced plans for our Ocean Education and Leadership Center that—with your help—will double our impact over the next few years.
We continue to inspire visitors through living exhibits that are second to none—a fact recognized when TripAdvisor® (the world’s largest travel site) named us the best aquarium in the world earlier this year. We were the pioneer of special exhibitions at public aquariums; our current exhibition, “Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes,” is the latest incredible accomplishment of our talented animal care and exhibitions team.
A voice for the ocean
Over the years, we have stepped up our role as a voice for the ocean, through a rigorous science program and effective advocacy on behalf of policies to safeguard the health of the ocean and marine wildlife. We’ve been successful because everything we do is grounded in the best available science. That’s one reason we were able to lead the campaign to ban the shark fin trade in California. And it’s the reason our Seafood Watch program has become the most respected source of information for consumers, chefs and major seafood buyers across North America.
We’re expanding our research work to support recovery of threatened ocean species, including sea otters, Pacific bluefin tuna and great white sharks. We’re also more active on behalf of legislation and policy—in Washington, DC, in Sacramento and in collaboration with business leaders as well as colleagues who share our goals.
Shaping the future
Through it all, we have remained true to our founding values: a commitment to science, and to a culture that supports teamwork and innovation. We also recognize that the future of the ocean—and this Earth we share—will be shaped by how well we nurture and cultivate the talents of our children.
It’s a solid foundation that continues to serve us well. It positions us to think about how we can best make a difference for the ocean—and how to turn our aspirations for the future into reality.
Thank you for being an essential part of this journey. The ocean is on the road to recovery, but we’ve only just begun.
(Photo of Julie Packard by Corey Arnold)
Feeling trapped in your cubicle this #humpday? At least you’re not a bryozoan! This bizarre animal lives inside a tiny box-shaped chamber stuck to a blade of kelp, next to dozens of its kin.
(Photo: Garry McCarthy)
Plankton of the world, beware! While most nudibranchs, or sea slugs, crawl and graze, the melibe sweeps its hood through the water like a net, capturing unsuspecting tiny drifters. A fringe of tentacles interlock and trap prey as the hood collapses to help the slug digest its meal.
Melibes may be expert plankton snatchers, but how do these soft-bodied invertebrates escape being a meal? Researchers have followed their noses to the melibe’s uniquely fruity smell—noxious secretions which may ward off nibbling fish. They can also “swim” away from predators by wiggling from side to side.
Living on giant kelp fronds or sea grass, melibes live higher up in the water column than most seafloor-bound nudibranchs. They’ve adapted well to the vertical life—as you can see in the background, their white ribbon eggs hang and sway with currents.
Shimmering, sleek and speedy! Schooling anchovies find safety in numbers—can you keep track of just one fish without getting mesmerized?
Watch them with our live Kelp Forest cam
Menace or merely misunderstood? Despite appearances, the monkeyface-eel isn’t a true eel—and it definitely doesn’t act like one. This reclusive fish seldom travels more than 15 feet from its home, and mostly eats algae.
(Photo: Charlene Boarts)
Is your garden thriving this summer? So is ours! This gorgeous giant kelp grows rapidly—up to 20 inches per day under ideal conditions in the bay.
View our live kelp forest cam
(Photo: Charlene Boarts)
Recognize our Kelp Forest exhibit in this #ThrowbackThursday construction photo? We’ve come a long way since the days of this inflatable dinghy!
Sea Palm Culture: In the Weeds
Our Kelp Forest exhibit is a visitor favorite. It’s gorgeous, and in 1984 it was the first living kelp forest grown outside the wild.
Today it’s home to a forest of giant kelp and bull kelp, and an understory of more than 65 other species of algae that colonize the exhibit as their spores enter with the raw seawater from Monterey Bay.
Thirty years later, we’ve created a second kelp forest in our galleries. Like the original, it’s home to marine algae that have never been grown at an aquarium. It’s every bit as remarkable as the original (if a bit smaller).
Look closely and you’ll find it in our Wave Crash exhibit, outside the signature walk-through tunnel. The exhibit resembles the complex ecosystem of the rocky shore because Aquarist Reggie Gary has painstakingly coaxed sea palms, feather boa kelp and at least three species of rockweed to grow in a man-made environment.
No. 1 algae fan: Julie Packard
Reggie’s efforts have won him a big fan: Executive Director Julie Packard.
“I fell in love with the ocean studying the amazing diversity of seaweeds on our rocky shores,” says Julie. “Sea palms are limited to really wild shorelines and it’s always a special treat to see them! We were proud to pull off growing giant kelp – but I never imagined we’d be able to grow sea palms. They are really challenging. Kudos to Reggie!”
You can see them at Point Lobos, or on the exposed rocky shorelines of Big Sur. They’re almost cartoon-like – a living Dr. Seuss creation.
Sea palms thrive under the harshest conditions: battered by fierce waves, alternately submerged in the surf and exposed to the air.
Just like Goldilocks
If the rocks are underwater too much of the time, or too high above the waves, they can’t support sea palms. Like Goldilocks, conditions have to be “just right.” Creating “just right” conditions is Reggie’s labor of love.
“I got a little emotional when I saw the first sea palms starting to grow, because no one else is doing it,” he says. “These are my babies.”
He started by collecting a few sea palms from the wild. He experimented, placing them in different locations in the outdoor Wave Crash pool, with mixed results.
He finally found the perfect spots: two exposed pinnacles that project above the water and are battered every 30 seconds by artificial waves.
Palm trees of the rocky shore
These hollow-tubed algae resemble miniature palm trees, and can grow to be just over two feet tall.
The adults that Reggie first collected produced microscopic gametophytes, the male and female offspring that colonize the exhibit. Each spring, in March or April, they reproduce and begin to grow a few centimeters a day. (Giant kelp grows several inches a day.) Each fall, the adult sea palm completes its life cycle and dies, leaving behind a new generation of gametophytes.
That’s what Reggie discovered when new sea palms first sprouted in the exhibit on their own.
“It was awesome,” he says. “I was in tears.”
A “geeked out” algae enthusiast
Success fired him up. Reggie frankly admits that he’s completely “geeked out” by rocky shore mysteries.
He next started colonies of other algae from the exposed rocky shore: feather boa kelp that looks like something a dance-hall girl would wear; and tiny Silvetia, Fucus and Endocladia rockweeds. All are growing and reproducing, just as they would in the wild.
Reggie’s also had luck with colonies of gooseneck barnacles, while fending off oystercatchers and other wild shorebirds that want to grab them as snacks. Like the algae, gooseneck barnacles thrive under pounding waves, alternately submerged and exposed to sunlight and air.
Location, location, location – and love
“It’s all about location,” Reggie says.
Location – and tender loving care. He makes sure there’s plenty of raw seawater running through the exhibit, so the algae get the nutrients they need. He drops the water level in the exhibit for two hours each morning so they’re left high and dry. And he’s arranged to have the waves crash 24/7 so his finicky charges are battered day and night.
Reggie’s been part of the Husbandry team for 25 years since we recruited him from the California Conservation Corps. After working in the food room and in every exhibit gallery, he now has special permission to focus on Rocky Shore exhibits, bringing what he sees in the wild to our visitors.
“When you’ve been here for 25 years, and you’re still excited to come in every day – that’s the best!” Reggie says.
Did you know you can go diving from your desk? Our live HD Kelp Cam offers multiple views of our famed Kelp Forest exhibit. The views change randomly every minute except when there is a feeding show.
Planning to visit this Martin Luther King weekend? You never know who’ll you’ll make friends with at the Aquarium! We have special hours Jan. 18-20, 9:30 am-6 pm (9 am for members).